(Ambrosio’s note: I’m very excited to share with you another revealing interview — this time featuring an industry that is brand new to Franchise Chatter: the sign industry. Vince Cvijanovic became a franchisee of Sign-A-Rama in 2004 and currently owns 2 franchise territories: one in Greensboro, NC and the other in Winston-Salem, NC. He runs the business with his son, Matt. In this exclusive no-nonsense interview, Vince candidly shares the ups and downs of his franchise journey and his thoughts on what it takes to become a success in the sign business. Thank you, Vince, for sharing your story with us!)
1. Can you tell us about your work background prior to becoming a franchisee of Sign-A-Rama?
I was a sales and marketing executive in the home and office furniture industries.
2. What made you decide to become a franchisee of Sign-a-Rama?
Sign-A-Rama provided a well established business system for becoming a leader in sign manufacturing in our local market. We purchased the business from the previous owner who had owned the business for the previous 13 years and had grown it to be in the top 50 in the Sign-A-Rama system. Sign-A-Rama was most attractive of all of the sign franchisors because their system allows for the franchisee to take the business as far as their ambitions will lead.
3. What is a typical day like in your life as a franchisee?
My work day revolves around meetings with our sales and production staff to make sure everyone is focused on keeping our promised for ship and installation dates, and conversations and meetings with customers.
4. Can you name 3 specific things that you’ve done for your business that have produced the greatest results?
We focus on building our brand in our market. We have highly visible signage at both our showrooms. All of our vehicles are completely wrapped with our brand name and corporate colors. We have 8 salespeople on staff who are very active in our local markets and active in leads and networking groups. And we have a very strong web presence.
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We hire the best people. We have nearly 70 employees now and among our staff, we have a combined 400+ years of sign experience which allows us to tackle nearly any challenge that comes our way.
We support our community through our “Signs of Support’’ program (the original idea of the Sign-A-Rama franchise owners in Louisville KY, Maggie and Brian Harlow). We donate or discount signage worth over $30,000 to qualifying charities and non-profits in our local community each of the last 2 years — and of course we plan to continue going forward.
5. Can you share the highest point and lowest point of your franchise journey so far, and what lessons have you learned from them?
The lowest point was nearly running out of cash 18 months into our ownership. We were investing in new equipment and the benefits were coming slowly but accelerated right after that scary spot.
The high point was being recognized as Mentor of the Year and being inducted into the Sign-A-Rama Hall of Fame at the Sign-A-Rama Expo Convention in 2010. We have met and learned from so many wonderful owners and it was thrilling to be recognized like that in their company.
6. What mistakes have you made as franchise owner that have taught you the biggest lessons?
The mistake that we make over and over again is hanging on to people who aren’t a good fit for our company for too long. We really want to give our employees the benefit of the doubt and assume they really want to be with us and contribute. Most of our staff are like that but in some cases, we wasted our time and the time of the people that weren’t a good fit by trying too hard and for too long to make it work.
7. If you were to speak to a prospective franchisee on the profit potential of this franchise, what would you say?
I would say that this is a business where profits can be challenging because there are so many details that need to be kept up with for every order — and lots of ways that things can go bad. In addition, there are many competitors that don’t know their costs and how to price. However, Sign-A-Rama has the tools to help you identify the customers, products, and practices that are the most profitable so as a franchisee, we get the help we need to be profitable.
8. Can you describe your working relationship with the home office of Sign-A-Rama?
Our working relationship is very good. We have always believed that the more we give, the more we can get back. We’ve had the opportunity to be in several committees and boards established by the corporate office and that resulted in the opportunity to become closer to the corporate staff and to meet many of the most successful franchise owners and learn from them.
9. What do you like most about being a franchisee of Sign-a-Rama?
Sign-A-Rama has provided us with the tools to become established in our market and the freedom to take the business where we want to take it. Also, the greatest strength of the franchise is the ability to network with other owners and their staffs to be able to share ideas and solutions to problems.
10. To what do you attribute your growth and success as a franchisee through the years?
We have a strong work ethic and a commitment to exceptional customer service. 80% of our sales every year comes from repeat business and referrals.